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Canadian Golf Architecture Review: Rod Whitman

Part of an ongoing series investigating Canadian golf designers…

Sagebrush: A collaboration between Rod Whitman and PGA Tour pro Richard Zokol

Sagebrush: A collaboration between Rod Whitman and PGA Tour pro Richard Zokol

Designer: Rod Whitman

Design Associate: Jeff Mingay

Years in industry: 29

Quote: “If you asked me my design philosophy, I’d say it is almost like a mix of throw in a little Pete Dye and Bill Coore and you get a Rod Whitman course. I love contour in the greens and contour in the fairways.”

Key Courses: Blackhawk Golf Club (Edmonton, Alberta); Sagebrush (Merritt, BC)

Recent projects: Sagebrush (interior British Columbia); Wolf Creek (Ponoka, Alberta); Cabot Links (Inverness, N.S.);

Comment: After years toiling as a shaper for the likes of Bill Coore and Pete Dye, course owners finally seem to have caught up with the charms of Whitman. His work at Blackhawk has been heralded as a throwback to the era of Stanley Thompson. His attention to detail on his courses, which includes creating many features by personally manning earthmoving equipment, is without peer in Canada.

Despite recent interest in his work, Whitman’s lackadaisical style and mellow personality often keeps him from gaining the recognition that has come so readily to many other Canadian architects. Is it a lack of ambition that keeps Whitman from fulfilling his potential? That would be my guess. Even if Cabot Links, which has one of the better sites in Canada in recent memory, gets completed to rave reviews, it doesn’t mean Whitman will capitalize on the success.

What’s possible: With potential projects on the ocean (Cabot Links, which started in the fall) and his new Sagebrush project with Richard Zokol poised to open, as well as a new nine at Wolf Creek, Whitman could become the most significant force in Canadian golf architecture. Or he could finish his current projects and take 20 years to do another. Who can say for sure?

Overall: A

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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